After wrapping up a 37-13 victory over the defending Mid-American Conference Champion Buffalo Bulls this afternoon, the Owls’ locker room sang Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes.”
Freshman kicker Brandon McManus hit a 35-yard field-goal attempt after an 11-play drive to lead off the game, and the Owls (1-2 overall, 1-0 MAC) went on to win their first game of the season. The Bulls fall to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in conference.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been 1-0 in the MAC,” coach Al Golden said. “Obviously, they’re the reigning MAC Champs, so from that standpoint this first win is significant, but when we wake up tomorrow morning, it’s just one win. It’s a good win, but it is only one.
“It’s nice. I’ve got to hide in the city and hide in the state [after losing to Villanova and Penn State], but at least we’re 1-0 in the MAC.”
Temple started the game with 10 straight rushing plays and finished the game with 40 attempts for 198 net yards. Freshman Bernard Pierce carried the ball 20 times for 116 net yards and his first career touchdown, an 18-yard run into the endzone in the third quarter after senior nose tackle Andre Neblett’s first career interception.
“We’ve been working three years to get that kind of rushing game,” Golden said. “Bernard’s a big back, and I’ve been anxious to get a big back and do the things that he can do. He uses the stiff arm well, and he’s always moving forward, but I think all three backs complement each other [Pierce, senior Lamar McPherson and sophomore Kee-ayre Griffin], and I don’t think Bernard gets the runs that he gets if Lamar doesn’t bring it downhill early. Lamar had a couple knockout blows, and that was the game plan coming in. We’ve never been able to pound someone like that, and Bernard helps us with that.”
Neblett’s interception was one of five turnovers the Owls forced on the day. Junior cornerback Marquise Liverpool and junior linebacker Elijah Joseph each reeled in their first career interceptions, and redshirt sophomore Morris Blueford Jr. recovered his first fumble. Joseph’s 95-yard return for a touchdown set a new school record. The old one, which was 92 yards, had lasted since 1971.
“He made a good play,” Golden said. “Most coaches would say go down with the ball because no good can come from it, but he made a great effort on that play. He saw a lane, and he ran with it.
“Multiple guys made plays, so I’m hopeful the defensive improvement can continue,” Golden added.
Still, Buffalo did gain 380 total yards of offense against Temple’s defense.
The Bulls grabbed a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter after advancing up the field from their own 3-yard line for a 36-yard field goal and then converting on another field-goal attempt after a Vaughn Charlton interception.
Charlton finished the game 6-for-17 for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
But sophomore wide receiver James Nixon, who corralled a 48-yard pass in the third quarter that set up redshirt sophomore tight end Evan Rodriguez’ first career touchdown, returned a 92-yard kickoff for a touchdown.
The Owls never trailed the rest of the way.
Game Notes: With the win, the Owls improve to 7-2 at Lincoln Financial Field against the MAC. They have won four home MAC games in a row…Temple travels to Eastern Michigan next Saturday. The Eagles are 0-3 and have a bye this week.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.